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Feb 24, 2010 11:45 PM by Monica Quintero

Santa Maria sees increase in graffiti; linked to non-violent 'crews'

Santa Maria has seen a big increase in graffiti. In fact, it's more than tripled from January of 2009 to January of this year. The evidence of Santa Maria's growing graffiti problem isn't hard to find. Police showed KSBY News pictures but asked us to blur those pictures on our newscast, so those behind the graffiti wouldn't get credit. Police said it's one of the many reasons they do it.

Lieutenant Jerel Haley, Santa Maria police, said, "Some of it is to mark there territory, some of it is to intimidate other gangs, some of it is just for the notoriety."

While gangs get the blame for some of the graffiti, police said there's another group having a bigger impact. The group is known as "crews" and tag mainly for the notoriety. But unlike gangs, they're not tied to violent crime.

Lieutenant Haley said, "Rarely in our community will they be involved in crimes of violence, thefts and burglaries that we see some of our gangs involved with."

Dennis Smitherman, Santa Maria's Recreation Supervisor, said, "What's frustrating is these crews and gang members are finding different places that are making it more and more difficult for our staff to reach and clean up the paint."

Officers remind taggers they could end up paying steep fines or even spend time behind bars. Depending on the amount of damage, they could even end up in state prison.

The Recreation and Parks department does a thorough job of documenting graffiti in the area. That way if someone is caught, they can hold them accountable for everything they did. As for those fines, that depends on the amount of damage done. Santa Maria does have an ordinance preventing people under the age of 18 from handling "graffiti tools" such as spray paint.

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